The mobile device area, especially the area above traditional cell phones and below standard laptops, is a fuzzy mix of smartphones, tablets, smartbooks, ultrathins and netbooks. Each has its own use-case and rationale for existence. Part of the challenge to vendors is to give the category some definition. This will help all the players in the long run.
When it comes to defining and creating markets, there is no better company in the world than Apple. And Apple may be on the point of joining the tablet fray, something that has long been rumored. PC World is one of several sites reporting that Apple is close to releasing a device, and says that an anonymous source has seen and held the tablet. The rumor, which still is one of several floating around, is that it will be announced in September, launched in November, cost between $699 and $799, and be capable of playing high-definition video.
It's interesting to look at the various fault lines in the category. Creative Strategies' principal Tim Bajarin does a good job of categorizing devices when he writes at PC Magazine about two types of netbooks. To date, most netbooks have in reality been small notebooks, with full-albeit comparatively low-capacity-capabilities. A newer netbook version optimized for the Web is being championed by Qualcomm, he says. This iteration of the netbook is called a smartbook. It is more of an "always-on connected device" that relies on the Web for most of its applications.
It seems that the netbook/smartbook divide is a microcosm of the age-old debate-which currently is in evidence with the emergence of cloud-based services-of where intelligence is best deposited in the overall path that extends from the user to the less-well-defined point at the other end of the connection. It is interesting to note that important conversation also is being held in the context of netbook development.
It's still a wide open market. CNET reports on coming changes discussed at the Intel Technology Summit last week in San Francisco. The bottom line is that Intel-driven netbooks will become more efficient through the consolidation of most of the core chips into a single piece of silicon, CNET says. The story also says that there will be a larger variety of ultrathins, which are the next most expensive and sophisticated device.
The bottom line is that the entire category is evolving quickly and, in terms of device definitions, is still a bit unstable. The other side of the coin is that consumers and businesses have an intense interest in these devices, so they have a bright future -- once they figure out precisely what they are.